Powered, the social media agency I worked for, was recently acquired by Dachis Group. Through this new venture of his, Razorfish co-founder, Jeffrey Dachis, is trying to validate a concept that has grown a pair of legs over the last few years: Social Business. It’s a relatively new concept to me, having spent all my time working on the consumer engagement side of social media. In a nutshell, however, it’s the process of internalizing social media ideals and applying many of those same consumer-facing archetypes to internal communications, policies, processes, and corporate culture, ultimately leading to a better company that makes better products.
My views and beliefs about social media have been called contrarian and I’ve frequently been labeled a devil’s advocate. But the truth is, I never saw myself falling into social in the first place. I didn’t touch social media, professionally, until my last internship in college, when I was doing blogger outreach for the launch of Dirt Candy. The reason for my skepticism stems from my belief that most social media programs are inherently digital campaigns cleverly dressed in Facebook fan pages and YouTube profiles. I think it’s naive to believe that the majority of the industry doesn’t lump social into digital, and for good reason. We, as marketers, fail to draw significant lines between the two.
Then again, should we be drawing lines at all?
I’ve written about the pervasiveness of social, and how the lines between media are becoming blurred. What I don’t hope for, however, is everything to be powered by Facebook Connect. If the future of social is to be determined by sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, then my skepticism about its future is well-founded, and it will fail to escape digital’s sphere of influence to become a ubiquitous force that knows no departmental bounds.
But I have hope; and it comes from social business design.
My antithetical attitudes towards social are born out of a desperate belief that it’s so much more powerful than what we’re currently doing with it. We talk about how disruptive a force social media is, and how it’s changing the landscape forever, but what are we really doing to drive that grandiose change? Surely it isn’t Twitter races.
I’ve always been a firm believer in the notion that people don’t develop affinities for brands just because they have a fan page, or tweet 3-5 times a day. People ultimately grow closer to brands because of the benefits they render in our lives. I used to be a hardcore Microsoft and Windows user. That is, until the iPhone came out, which led me to a MacBook, which led me to an iMac, and soon enough an iPad (com’on 2nd generation). I got caught in Apple’s famous halo effect; but I’m not ashamed.
That transition didn’t happen because Apple had a YouTube contest or an elaborate fan acquisition strategy. It’s because they create wonderful products. It’s as simple as that. You’ll be hard pressed to find a direct connection between a company’s social media marketing and long-lasting effects on their bottom line. What you will find is a direct connection between the creation of better, more innovative, products and increased sales and demand.
It’s believed that social business design has the power to transform a company into an environment where free-thinking and innovation can thrive, theoretically leading to better ideas and better products. Corporate process change may not sound as sexy, but I believe that what we’re currently doing with social media, as an industry, is only skin deep. We have merely scratched the surface of what I think is possible through the democratization of these tools; at least I hope so. Because if this is it, then I might as well go back to my digital roots.
I don’t think this is it, however. I believe there’s a long road ahead for social; and thankfully it doesn’t lead to marketing more effectively on Facebook. We should aspire to more. We should challenge ourselves to find greater purpose for an idea that can potentially change the way business is conducted forever. We simply have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and believe that we’re on the cusp of something much larger and much more powerful than what we initially set out to achieve.